Technology Infusion and Marketing
Matthew D. Wood, Sarah Thorne, and Gordon Butte
The EL invents. Individual investigators and teams routinely solve problems presented by customers of different types in the Civil Works and Military missions supported by the USACE. Solutions may involve the creation of new products and services, as well as new capabilities—methods and technologies. Development efforts have also resulted in an extensive portfolio of solutions that have the potential to add value in a number of markets and for customers in addition to those for whom the solutions were initially developed.
The opportunity is for the EL to also innovate not only in science and technology product development, but also in TIM. Here innovation is defined as the process of assuring the successful use of an invention—a solution to a problem—among given customers that comprise markets.
Dr. Elizabeth Fleming, head of the ERDC Environmental Lab has noted that, in order to accomplish innovation the EL has to satisfy its own customer-related needs. In a commentary on the challenge of Technology Infusion and Marketing, Dr. Fleming said: “We need EL customers to, first, be aware of the creative solutions that we have developed and can develop and, second, to understand the utility and value of our solutions and, third, to know from us and with our support how best to
M.D. Wood (*)
S. Thorne , M.A.
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017
M.D. Wood et al., Mental Modeling Approach, Risk, Systems and Decisions, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-6616-5_6
apply the solutions to realize their full value. We also need to demonstrate the value of our programs by better articulating what we can contribute and how we make a difference in Civil Works and Military programs and missions. Our diverse portfolio of science and technology solutions allows us to leverage our Civil Works and Military solutions by transferring existing technology to new customers and new technologies to existing customers. And we need to take risks in a smart manner. Nothing will change for the better until we do. The leadership of the EL is fully committed to enabling us all to do so.”
EL, as a part of the USACE more broadly, has both a Civil Works and a Military mission, each of which are associated with different business lines and distinct though often overlapping customer bases. The Civil Works mission is to “[provide] quality, responsive service to the nation in peace and war (USACE 2014a).” These activities include infrastructure development and support, flood risk management, environmental stewardship, and others. USACE’s Military mission is primarily focused on “[providing] premier engineering, construction, real estate, stability operations, and environmental management products and services for the Army, Air Force, other assigned US Government agencies and foreign governments (USACE 2014b).” This includes such activities as infrastructure support as well as research and development for the U.S. Army and other U.S. Armed Services domains.
Many prominent researchers, business growth consulting professionals, and investors (e.g., Bacon and Butler 1973, 1998) have noted that key to technology infusion success is matching a given product to the customer’s greatest need and communicating during development, ensuring the product generates full value for the customer. While this is well recognized by marketers, it is often unclear to a product developer. How to accomplish this matching of need and value and do so fast, accurately, cost effectively, and efficiently will significantly reduce the risk of mismatch leading to product market failure.
Research on technology transfer for federal labs identified disagreements on both methods and terminology. No single approach was identified as applicable to EL and ERDC. That said, past research conducted for the ERDC highlighted a few specific factors to be considered for effective TIM, including: Deliberate approaches to TIM, valuing successful TIM within the organization; providing funding for TIM activities; having organizational leadership promote TIM as a priority; and cultivating champions within the organization to promote TIM (Decision Partners 2011). This work, combined with a review of successful corporate innovation processes, suggested the Mental Modeling approach, if tailored to fit the circumstances and business culture of EL, could be used to improve TIM in the organization (Fig. 6.1).
The hypothesized approach focused on three key steps:
1. Characterizing the TIM opportunity for EL technologies, products, and
- 2. Validating these hypotheses of opportunity; and
- 3. Implementing a Marketing Plan to achieve these opportunities.
Workshop participants focused the first step, Opportunity Characterization, for three EL technologies. Using templates the breakout groups defined:
Fig. 6.1 Base model of the TIM approach
- • Comprehensive product descriptions.
- • Potential customers and their unmet needs.
- • Hypotheses of product values to potential customers.
- • Marketing plans and immediate next steps in preparation for Validation (Step Two).